How the WAGs grew up
A decade ago, the footie wives and girlfriends were daily tabloid fodder, with their designer handbags, oversized sunglasses and outsized egos. But today they're an altogether more sophisticated bunch
Published 25/06/2016 | 02:30
He called it the "best feeling in the world", and no doubt the thrill of scoring a momentous goal for his country was all the more delicious for Robbie Brady with his family and girlfriend in the stands.
Sure enough, as the final whistle blew on this week's Ireland v Italy game, the hero ran straight to his other half Kerrie Harris, planting a kiss on her in jubilant celebration.
So far, so typical… but in the cold light of morning, many were wondering about the brunette beauty, and why we haven't heard too much about her before. Spare the odd gushing tribute on social media and the occasional snap of the couple's two-year-old daughter Halle, Kerrie likes to keep a low profile.
Kerrie has her own healthy career as a choreographer and dancer, and runs Sole2Sole Dance Academy in her native Swords. She has also studied advertising and communications at Tallaght IT, and has no shortage of career ambitions of her own. It's safe to assume, then, that she is far from a common-or-garden WAG.
Of course, the big question looms into view: what is a 'common-or-garden WAG' these days anyway? The wives and girlfriends of the Irish football team have been so off-radar in the run-up to the Euro 2016 tournament, they only really came to attention when gaffer Martin O'Neill made a rather brave (or foolhardy) joke about them some months ago.
When asked in the Aviva press room if he was going to issue a WAG ban at the Irish team hotel in France, O'Neill replied: "Well, it depends on how good-looking the girls are. If they are really attractive, they're very, very welcome. The uglier ones, I'm afraid not."
There has been no shortage of glamorous WAGs making their way to France this month: among them are Wayne's other half Coleen Rooney, Shakira (married to Spain's Gerard Pique), and Mario Gotze's missus Ann Katharin Brommel. But something curious is afoot this time - today's WAGs are happy to let their fellas' fancy footwork do (most of) the talking.
It's a far cry from a decade ago in Baden-Baden, when we reached peak WAG. As the WAGs tottered around in their Louboutins on the cobbled streets of the German town, hunting for designer boutiques, the rest of the world stifled a mirthful laugh. By day they shopped, by night they partied. It was all becoming a bit much for celebrity-watchers; the vapid shopping, the excessive fake tans, the barefaced hogging of the limelight. Even Roy Keane got sick of them that year.
But that was then, and this is now. Gone is the cliché of the WAG who flexes her partner's Mastercard and sits in the family pile, like a gilded Stepford Wife.
Also by the wayside is the idea that WAGs are wolfish, wily glamour pusses stalking the nightclubs of Liverpool and Manchester to land their Premiership totty prizes.
So how did it come to pass? Fashion, mainly. After a dizzying summer at the top of the style pile, WAGs soon went the unfashionable way of the Juicy Couture tracksuit.
The WAGs set suffered their own ignominies down the years: Ryan Giggs' wife Stacey, John Terry's wife Toni and even poor Coleen were forced to endure the humiliation of infidelity rumours. And suddenly, being a devoted, fame-hungry WAG didn't seem quite so glamorous anymore.
Yet scratch the surface, not least of the Irish football squad, and you're likely to find a new guard of partners who are no-one's idea of a vacuous, glossy hanger-on. Many of the Irish stars' partners are long-term loves; some of them teenage sweethearts who met their man in school, or through friends. They often mix motherhood with jobs, too… and good jobs at that.
Jessica Lawlor, wife of injured international star Stephen Ireland, met her beau when they were teenagers in Cork, through friends.
Tipperary footballer Shane Long met Kayleah Adams, a successful handbag designer, when they were both teenagers while he was playing for Reading, where she hails from.
Ex-Ireland star Stephen Hunt's wife Joanne Doyle was introduced to her man by her first cousin Kevin Doyle, who played with Stephen at Reading. The couple subsequently married in 2008 with a reception at Kilshane House in Bansha, Tipperary.
Elsewhere, Wexford beauty Jenny Harney met her husband and former international Kevin Doyle when she was just 16, at the National Ploughing Championships. Jenny has carved out a career as an industrial designer, specifically designing environmentally-friendly air ventilation systems.
Seamus Coleman married his teenage sweetheart Rachel Cunningham last year in a low-key ceremony in their native Donegal, after an 11-year courtship.
And while retired Damien Duff's wife Elaine is absent from this year's celebrations, she deserves a mention. Giovanni Trappatoni was so convinced of Elaine's influence on the soccer star that the manager demanded to have a word with Elaine, who he thought was 'making' the star retire. The pair are well-matched by all accounts, and both are happy to keep out of the public. The Bray native knew Damien as a friend for years before they decided to give their romance a go.
Assistant manager Roy Keane has also been brimful of praise for his wife Theresa, noting that she, the mother of his five children, is very much his rock. "I don't really mention her in public, but she's brilliant," Keane is quoted as saying. "She's had to bite her tongue a few times. She knows I haven't got a halo over my head."
Whatever about their influence at home, several of the Irish WAGS are wielding considerable power in their own careers, too.
Scottish beauty Claire McGeady - who met her husband Aiden McGeady when the pair were still in school in Glasgow - is a successful pharmacist.
Stephen Kelly's wife Helga Simonson, from Dublin, graduated with a degree in economics and English before achieving a first-class MSc in international business. A talented basketball player too, she has lectured in business studies in the UK, where she enjoys the quiet life with the former Ireland star.
The Irish squad's alpha WAG Claudine Keane may be a dedicated follower of fashion, but she too is no airhead. A model since 15, Claudine also holds a 1st class honours degree in economics and finance from UCD.
And while hubby Robbie's career in LA Galaxy moves from strength to strength, Claudine has managed to parlay a move to Los Angeles into a deft career move. And given that she is rubbing shoulders with the great in Hollywood, the mum-of-two is perfectly placed to be a star-spotting newspaper columnist.
Yet for all the Keanes' starry exploits, Claudine still keeps herself and her young family grounded. "I am very close to my family and I always have been, so I always say that I am a home girl," she says. "To me LA is so exciting and you live for all of those amazing moments and then you get home and think that was a great experience; you go back to reality then."